Television: Those Old Good Games

In the '50s, quiz shows thrilled, then dismayed

A quiz show promising an astonishing payoff debuts on network television during the summer doldrums. The new prime-time entry attracts good ratings and earns a place on the fall schedule, at which point it becomes a national craze and TV's No. 1 hit. Competitors scramble to come up with big-money quiz shows of their own, offering richer pots and more intricate contest rules. The year is 1955.

The notorious scandals that followed so thoroughly rattled the fledgling medium of commercial television that 44 years would elapse before another summer upstart offering dazzling dollars in prime time would again galvanize the TV...

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